If someone has suffered from cardiac arrest, a defibrillator is a fundamental piece of equipment in improving the chances of survival. Where is my nearest defibrillator, you may ask? Keep reading for more information on more on these essential healthcare tools, who should use them, and where to find a defibrillator?
According to the British Heart Foundation (BHF), there are over 30 000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests (OHCA) per year – events that require resuscitation or intervention from emergency medical personnel. Sadly, only one in ten people will survive these emergency medical events.
The moments between the arrest occurring and the arrival of paramedics are crucial when it comes to saving lives. Chances of survival in a sudden cardiac arrest increase by 70% if a defibrillator is used in the first four minutes after the event. If defibrillation is delayed, survival rates drop to 5%. How bystanders react can play a decisive role in the outcome.
For anyone without medical training, this may seem a particularly daunting prospect. However, it is the user friendliness and accessibility of defibrillators that make these machines such a powerful tool in a cardiac emergency. These machines are automated, with simple-to-understand prompts. Increased public awareness is the first step in empowering members of the public to make a difference. Read our blog on how to use a defibrillator.
Where can one expect to find a defibrillator?
Defibrillators are found in a range of different public places – and their presence is usually indicated by the heart and lightning bolt symbol. Defibrillators are commonly found in the following locations:
According to St John’s Ambulance, there are 100 000 defibrillators in the UK. Many defibrillators won’t be used because bystanders and emergency personnel don’t know where to find them or how to access them. This costs valuable time after a sudden cardiac arrest – moments that could mean survival. In fact, it is claimed that tens of thousands of defibrillators are unknown to emergency medical services.
The British Heart Foundation reports that bystander defibrillation occurs in less than 5% of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests. Increased public awareness around the life-saving potential of these machines is key to their usage. The next hurdle is ensuring accessibility through tools like a defibrillator finder or defibrillator map.
First step to find a defibrillator: phone emergency services
The signs to look for in a cardiac arrest is that the victim is unresponsive and not breathing. In this (and any) medical emergency, dial 999 or 112 for the ambulance service. The operator is there to guide you on the best course of action. He or she will also be able to advise you on defibrillator locations and what to do.
A number of maps and online resources are available. Please note that, even if you are going to make use of any of the digital resources mentioned in this blog, it is important to always contact emergency services for information and access to a defibrillator.
Defibrillator map: a quick defibrillator finder
Together with the UK’s leading healthcare providers such as St John’s Ambulance, Association of Ambulance Chief Executives, and Resuscitation Council UK, the British Heart Foundation has sought to create a network for defibrillators around the country – accessible by the public in case of an emergency. This national defibrillator network, called The Circuit, encourages the registration of the thousands of unregistered defibrillators to increase the reach of life-saving public access to defibrillators. This includes both those that are available 24/7 and those that are not, with scope to specify times of unavailability.
The Circuit also informs defibrillator guardians around maintenance requirements and replacement pads. The responsibility for the defibrillator and the replacement of all consumable parts remain the responsibility of the organisation.
The National Defibrillator Database Defibrillator Map
The National Defibrillator Database (NDD) also has an online map of defibrillator locations in the UK. This has been created by the Community Heartbeat Trust – a charity that aims to assist communities in the successful and sustainable implementation of defibrillator projects.
NHS Defibrillator Locations Through Local Ambulance Services
Similarly, local ambulance services utilise a defibrillator database via the Circuit, which is used to direct members of the public to defibrillators in case of a sudden cardiac event. This is accessible through a mobile app. The app also includes valuable instructions on things like CPR, videos, and information on heart attacks and cardiac arrest. Many individual websites also have a useful defibrillator finder, where you can insert your postcode or town or suburb name for defibrillator locations.
Challenges in determining accurate defibrillator locations
Can one expect a defibrillator to be in the cabinet at all times?
No. A centralised national defibrillator database is unquestionably a critical component to defibrillator access. Knowing where to expect them – and having this information readily available to members of the public and emergency medical services makes determining defibrillator location a greater possibility.
However, even this vital tool has shortcomings. Many of these maps do not collect real-time data, which means there is no guarantee that a defibrillator will be in the cabinet – or be in good working order – when it is needed. By their very nature, this equipment is designed to be portable.
Once used, it is reasonable to expect the machine to accompany medical personnel to the hospital. After this, it is likely to be retained at the hospital for data to be collected from the machine. Thereafter, arrangements need to be made for the return of the defibrillator and any associated maintenance that may need to occur. During this time, although a defibrillator may register as being present in a certain area, no defibrillator will be available for use in an emergency.
Defibrillator location changes
In the same vein, defibrillators stand to change location from time to time. Again, unless the administration of this is well-handled, this could result in incorrect information and wasted minutes in locating a defibrillator in an emergency.
New defibrillators within communities
With thousands of unregistered defibrillators dotted around the United Kingdom, it is clear that initial registration is a challenge. It is hoped that the ongoing campaigns of the abovementioned organisations will result in increased public awareness and defibrillator registrations.
Defibrillator tampering and theft
While AED cabinets are designed to prevent tampering and theft (with external defibrillators often being alarmed), they are not impervious to tampering, vandalism, and theft.
Defibrillator map meets defibrillator monitoring and maintenance
This blog deals with defibrillator location, but this is only one of the challenges. The presence of a defibrillator is one thing. Whether it is in good working order is another. While many great efforts are made to prompt maintenance of defibrillators, this can be easily overlooked. As a result, pads may need replacing or the battery may not be in working order.
The long-term upkeep of a defibrillator also has a bearing on whether it is operational in an emergency. For instance, waterproofness, dust proofness, temperature, and UV protection may influence the functioning of defibrillators in the long term, as well as factors like consistency of power source and battery functionality.
How smart technologies streamline defibrillator locations and the creation of a defibrillator map
While a defibrillator map is a useful tool, it is only effective if the information is kept updated. If this requires manual information changes, the risk of human error or forgetfulness can result in errors. The effectiveness of the map is also reduced where the defibrillator itself isn’t in working order. With time of the essence following a cardiac arrest, the value of knowing the status of defibrillators in real time becomes increasingly important.
Smarter Technologies Group has adapted its powerful solutions to create a smart defibrillator monitoring system to make a difference around defibrillator accessibility and effectiveness. Using a system of IoT pressure pads, sensors, and gateways, smart technologies report on the core factors around defibrillator location and status in real time. This information is communicated to a remotely accessible, cloud-based dashboard. This provides an instant overview on the detailed information around connected defibrillators.
These smart technologies report on a range of factors. For instance, you can get a detailed maintenance log in a glance. This not only alerts guardians to ongoing maintenance requirements, but works to assure long-term, well-maintained and operational machines. Tags and sensors also report on GPS location in real time. Should a defibrillator move location, rather than relying on reporting from people within an organisation, the technology gives instant insight into where to find defibrillators.
Other metrics can be monitored too. Unauthorised tampering, undesirable temperature changes, moisture, and battery levels are all observable from this cloud-based dashboard. Smarter technologies are aimed to empower defibrillator users by upscaling the information available at any given time.